Thursday, April 28, 2016


So I’m writing this story about a girl who falls in love with an octopus.  Partly it’s prompted by recent articles about the characteristics of octopuses, for instance that their eight arms may have separate “selves” that are only partly integrated with the main head.  Partly I have strong memories of a little Seaside, OR, aquarium I've known since childhood to draw on.  Partly it’s the idea of a glass wall that allows us to see but not to touch, to relate but not to express physical relationship, and how it is that totally different sensibilities with different goals can persist in being intensely drawn to each other.

A big part of what’s motivating me is that I’m finding every day that the Internet that so enabled me to participate in the world, a kind of freedom to know what’s out there and to escape local bullying and exploitation of gate-keepers, editors, and fellow writers who want to attach me to them with labels in order to pimp me out for money and their reputation.  I want to get back to the splendid cyber-freedom that kicked up so many ideas and emotions between me and one writer who only wanted to know what I know.  (Almost in the Biblical sense.)  Part of it was that it was secret.  Mostly.  Now anything can be hacked and is.  And morality has become increasingly narrow and punitive, not just in small towns but across the world.

What was once a scaffold that allowed achievement has now become a cage, an aquarium, where all the predators and parasites have easy access.  No sooner does a “writers” platform show up, a place where someone can engage other thinking people, than it starts requiring labels, lists, likes and “my” relationships, building silos that are really marketing devices that make it easier to find the lowest common denominator.  “What do you want?” they say.  “Give us your feedback.  We really want to know how to please you.”  What they really mean is “what will addict you?  What will make you forget everything else?”  "What will make money for US?"  Usually an aquarium built of mirrors.

So the “theme” is what?  Steven Pressfield says all good writing has a theme.  I quite agree.  And the theme emerges when you write the story.  Yes.  Here’s his discussion.

In the meantime, after I said on my blog that I was writing a story about a girl who falls in love with an octopus, here comes a story from a Crossing Genres writer (on that is about himself (naturally) being freaked out in an aquarium, confronting the death side of “love” which many people feel is the same as sex.  He emphasizes the insectoid aspect of Otherness.

Already I’ve got too much stuff going on for a decent short story.  Here’s another one: the onset of adolescence in a female when an intense physiological drive merges with a romantic/spiritual storm of longing for fusion with the Other, a yearning to save them with self-sacrifice.  (Preparation for motherhood?)  Whatever the male (usually) wants becomes a demand that cannot be refused.  So suppose that this girl in this story refuses to meet that demand — insists on her separation behind that glass wall?  Who is in the aquarium now?

In the reciprocity of the arts, research and inspiration are reinforced by video.
The splendidness of the Giant Pacific Octopus.
Gender dynamics between octopuses.

Girl submerging

There are a lot of maternal and cultural demands in such a story — what my friend calls the “MomFreud,” always trying to make things “right” and “clear” and “obedient.”  SAFE.  I’m sorting tear-outs, very old ones that I’m mostly discarding, but I found one that comes from Vogue, I think, before Vogue began pandering to teenagers.  It was three forms your MomFreud thinks sex takes:  one was prone on an altar in a white gown with candleabra, pure as death.  The second was clinical: feet in stirrups, nurses in attendance with the in vitro embryo at hand in its petri dish.  The third was wild, ecstatic tentacle porn with an octopus.  OMFG

I don’t think that even the Greeks had a myth for this last Otherness.  (One of the things I’ve learned recently is that the plural of octopus is Octopuses rather than Octopi, because the root word is Greek and the “i” ending belongs to Latin and Steven Jobs.)

The octopus looks so unearthly genital because its whole system is based on a different set of forces than bone and voluntary muscle.  It has no skeleton — though its precursors had one, now reduced only to a couple of little plates to be central points of attachment and a hard poisonous beak.  

Humans have two body areas that operate on the same hydrostatic principles as an octopus.  Both are holes guarded by sphincters and lips.  One is the mouth and the other is the anus.  These were present in the original eukaryotes with one cell — a place to take in food and a place to throw out the leftovers.  That was way back in the day when cells had sex by fusing and/or cloning.

The tongue works like an octopus tentacle.

The sexual organs are also hydrostatic — there’s no muscle in a penis — but they operate by being a cluster of cells that can each pull in water, not by being a kind of unified bladder that inflates with water or lungs that inflate with air.  The penis swells and stiffens outside, but the same tissue that would have been a penis in the presence of a different set of molecules is in a woman wrapped around the vagina, like a fist that grips harder when the cells are full.  

Since these hydrostatic responses are controlled by the unconscious autonomic/hormonal collaboration and connections, system-wide when the hydrostatic swelling is turned on, the mouth and nose also swell.  It’s a giveaway.  Maybe that’s why the lower faces of Arab women are veiled.  But even then their eyes will dilate.

This justifies my using the hydrostatic octopus as a stand-in for sexuality.  What about the eight arms, each thinking for themselves?  Are they the arguing Sons of Octopus?  Are they more than ambivalence, a kind of octovalence?  The research suggests that the animal (they say animal, not fish or insect) has favorite tentacles that they use more than the others, so does that mean that their brains are assigned by halves or eighths to creating preferences and habits?  

Does an octopus’s eyes dilate when they’re thinking erotic thoughts?  The octopus's eye is the only part of it that cannot be compressed.  It is the limit on the size of hole it can squeeze through.

I hope I will come across the tear-out from “Heavy Metal” magazine that was a graphic (drawn) depiction of a narcissistic octopus that separates into two, makes love to itself, then merges again into one.  Is it about the fusion of two people making love in the merger way (there is also a way that tears people apart) or is it just about masturbation? 

That word always echoes “perturbation” to me, with a shadow of “perversion.”  

First definition of perturbation on Google:  Anxiety; mental uneasiness. 

Second definition:  a deviation of a system, moving object, or process from its regular or normal state of path, caused by an outside influence.

Third definition:  Perturbation theory, mathematical methods that give approximate solutions to problems that cannot be solved exactly.

Fourth (physics): a secondary influence on a system that modifies simple behaviour, such as the effect of the other electrons on one electron in an atom.  

The fifth is related:  a disturbance of motion, course, arrangement, or state of equilibrium; especially : a disturbance of the regular and usually elliptical course of motion of a celestial body that is produced by some force additional to that which causes its regular motion.

So is it a good thing to fall in love with an octopus?  If so, is it a good thing there’s a glass wall (internet) in between?  And behind it all is the knowledge that even the Giant Pacific Octopus, which can grow to be fifteen feet long, only lives five years or so.  I’ve found them dead on the beach, gray, deflated, discarded by the sea.  But the sea remains and as long as it does, the octopuses will be there.

Is the theme about not being consumed by sex?  About surrendering to sex as a form of renewal?  About a longing for fusion that has been part of us since one-celled eukaryotes?  Will she save the octopus?  Or will it destroy her? 

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